FAMILY LEGACIES

Sweet new Texas-based website lets you record a final goodbye for loved ones

Kids can know their grandparents and great-grandparents a little better. Keeping Families Connected/Facebook

Anew North Texas startup helps soothe the sting of losing loved ones by allowing them to leave behind an entirely different kind of heirloom. A Sweet Goodbye is a new online service that lets people record messages that can be accessed and enjoyed by family and friends after they're gone.

Fort Worth-based founder Rich Hollander, who worked for Radio Shack/Tandy Corporation in the area for more than 25 years, got the idea about a year ago during a reflective moment.

"I was sitting in synagogue, a quiet time when you contemplate things," he says. "During those times, I talk to my parents — who are both gone — and my late brother, and about 15 other people who have passed away. On this particular morning, I was talking to my mom. I knew what she was telling me, but I couldn't hear her voice. I thought, 'I wish I could just push a button and hear her voice,' but there's nothing I could do about that."

While it's too late for Hollander to hear his mother's voice, he says, he wanted to provide such a service for other people. He also says he wanted to make the process as simple and as painless as possible.

"You go to our website and click on a button that says, 'I want to make a recording.' Before that you prepare a little bit. You figure out what you want to say, and you figure out who you want to send the message to. You get their email address, and we ask you to give us two trusted advisers so they can tell us when you passed away, and then you just record your message, and that's it."

The message customers record is hosted on the cloud, and it's all audio based. Your loved one will hear it after you die, as many times as they would like. There is no video option, and messages can last a maximum of five minutes long. According to Hollander, this is by design rather than due to technical limitations.

"We thought about our target customers; Baby Boomers and their parents don't want to see themselves," he says. "They don't like the idea of recording a video. And people don't want to listen for more than five minutes. You can say a lot in that amount of time."

Some people choose to pass down secret family recipes or record tales from their youth, the company says.

Realizing that people can also use phones and other home devices to make recordings, Hollander made A Sweet Goodbye inexpensive, accessible, and convenient. He says there are other options for similar services on the market, but they are "much more complex" and "much more expensive," costing up to $8 per month, compared to his company's one-time fee.

"You can listen to it a thousand times from your computer or your phone," he says. "You can have your children listen to it. They can listen to their great grandma's voice. For $25, it's a bargain."

Hollander himself uses the service.

"I have two adult daughters in their 40s," he says. "One lives here, one lives in New Zealand. My message to them is something like, 'If you pushed this button, you are probably having a bad day, and just need my voice of reassurance. So, understand that I'm up here in heaven, and I'm looking after you guys, and tomorrow will be a better day than today.' They can push that button and hear that message whenever and wherever they want."

While A Sweet Goodbye is simple to use, there is an emotional hurdle in getting started.

"The hard part is making the first message," Hollander says. "Because it's coming to grips with the fact that you are not going to be around forever, and neither is your mom. But it is cathartic. For me, the second message was extremely easy to make."

The site has just launched and is now available for anyone to access. On Veterans Day (November 11), A Sweet Goodbye will provide one free service for active duty members in the United States military. Later, they will do another giveaway for nurses and first responders. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

"It's our way of doing something nice for the world," Hollander says.

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This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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Building Houston

 
 

Auburn University's SwiftSku took first place in this year's virtually held Rice Business Plan Competition, but it was the second place company that went home with over half a million in cash and investment prizes. Photo via rice.edu

In its 21st year, the Rice Business Plan Competition hosted 54 student-founded startups from all over the world — its largest batch of companies to date — and doled out over $1.4 million in cash and investment prizes at the week-long virtual competition.

RBPC, which is put on by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, took place Tuesday, April 6, to Friday, April 9 this year. Just like 2020, RBPC was virtually held. The competition announced the 54 participating startups last month, and coordinated the annual elevator pitches, a semi-finals round, wildcard round and live final pitches. The contestants also received virtual networking and mentoring.

Earlier this week, Rice Alliance announced the seven student-led startups that then competed in the finals. From this pack, the judges awarded the top prizes. Here's how the finalists placed and what won:

  • SwiftSku from Auburn University, point of sales technology for convenience stores that allows for real time analytics, won first place and claimed the $350,000 grand prize from Goose Capital. The company also won the $50,000 Business Angel Minority Association Prize, the $500 Best Digital Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $401,000. The company also won the CFO Consulting Prize, a $25,000 in-kind award.
  • AgZen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a pesticide alternative spray and formulation technology company, won the second place $100,000 investment prize (awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The startup also won a $300,000 Owl Investment Prize, the $100,000 Houston Angel Network Prize, the $500 Best Energy Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, and the $1,500 Third Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $502,000. The company also won the $30,000 in-kind Polsinelli Energy Prize.
  • FibreCoat GmbH from RWTH Aachen University, a startup with patented spinning technology for the production of inexpensive high-performance composite fibers, won the third place $50,000 investment prize (also awarded by Finger Interests, Anderson Family Fund, Greg Novak, and Tracy Druce). The company also won the $100,000 TiE Houston Angels Prize and the $500 Best Hard Tech Elevator Pitch Prize from Mercury Fund, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $150,500.
  • Candelytics from Harvard University, a startup building the digital infrastructure for 3-D data, won the fourth place $5,000 prize.
  • OYA FEMTECH Apparel from UCLA, an athletic wear company that designs feminine health-focused clothing, won the fifth place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $5,000 Eagle Investors Prize, the $25,000 Urban Capital Network Prize, and the $1,000 Second Place Anbarci Family People's Choice prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $36,000.
  • LFAnt Medical from McGill University , an innovative and tech-backed STI testing company, won the sixth place $5,000 prize and the $20,000 Johnson and Johnson Innovation Prize, bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $25,000.
  • SimpL from the University of Pittsburgh, an AI-backed fitness software company, won the seventh place $5,000 prize. The company also won the $25,000 Spirit of Entrepreneurship Prize from the Pearland Economic Development Corp., bringing the company's grand total in cash and investment prizes to $30,000.

Some of the competition's participating startups outside of the seven finalists won monetary and in-kind prizes. Here's a list of those.

  • Mercury Fund's Elevator Pitch Prizes also included:
    • Best Life Science $500 Prize to Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Best Consumer $500 Prize to EasyFlo from the University of New Mexico
    • Best Overall $1,000 prize to Anthro Energy from Stanford University
  • The Palo Alto Software Outstanding LivePlan Pitch $3,000 Prize went to LiRA Inc. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • The OFW Law FDA Regulatory Strategy Prize, a $20,000 in-kind award went to Paldara Inc. from Oklahoma State University.
  • The Silver Fox Mentoring Prize, which included $20,000 in kind prizes to three winners selected Ai-Ris from Texas A&M University, BruxAway from the University of Texas, and Karkinex from Rice University as recipients.
  • The first, second, and third place winners also each received the legal service prize from Baker Botts for a total of $20,000 in-kind award.
  • The Courageous Women Entrepreneurship Prize from nCourage — a $50,000 investment prize — went to Shelly Xu Design from Harvard University.
  • The SWPDC Pediatric Device Prize — usually a $50,000 investment divided its prize to two winners to receive $25,000 each
    • Blue Comet Medical Solutions from Northwestern University
    • Neurava from Purdue University
  • TMC Innovation Healthcare Prize awarded a $100,000 investment prize and admission into its accelerator to ArchGuard from Duke University
  • The Artemis Fund awarded its $100,000 investment prize to Kit Switch from Stanford University
The awards program concluded with a plan to host the 22nd annual awards in 2022 in person.

If you missed the virtual programming, each event was hosted live on YouTube and the videos are now available on the Rice Alliance's page.

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